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'Buffy' nostalgia recap: Let's talk about the Watchers' Council

Season 5 | Episode 12 | “Checkpoint” | Aired Jan 23, 2001

I’m intrigued by the Watchers’ Council. There. I said it. I’m kind of into those stodgy old so-and-sos. Say what you will about their methods or motives, but the Watchers’ Council is one of the most interesting and underdeveloped entities in the Buffyverse. Buffy herself, of course, has a very complicated relationship with the Council, which is fair because … let’s review:

  • They sent a creepy old dude to tell her she was the Slayer and train her in the ways of vampire killing.
  • That guy died.
  • She moves to a new town where a new creepy (sorry, Giles, but objectively speaking, yeah) old British dude is already waiting for her with a book labeled VAMPYR.
  • They sometimes provide a little help and guidance, but mostly just act as a mysterious governing body that said British guy references from time to time.
  • When Faith’s Slayer dies, the replacement, who allegedly comes from the Council, is a crazy, power-hungry ex-Watcher who breaks fragile Faith and pushes a powerful Slayer over to the Dark Side.
  • When that crazy woman is vanquished, she’s replaced by Wesley. This is pre-Angel Wesley; he’s pretty obnoxious. He’s like Giles’ annoying younger brother.
  • On Buffy’s 18th birthday, they force Giles to drug her, stripping her of her Slayer strength, before locking her up in a Saw-like scenario with a mentally ill and seriously strong vampire.

At this point, Buffy quit. Maybe “quit” isn’t the best word. “Quit” implies that she stopped her Slaying, which she didn’t. As much as she wants to be a normal girl, by the time “Helpless” (that super-terrible 18th birthday I described above) rolled around, she had accepted her fate as a major player in the fight against evil. She quit working with the Council, though. It was like Buffy was a world-class pop star and the Council was her management team, and she fired them all in one swoop to make a go on her own and keep the 10 percent. She was the real commodity and she knew it.

But come season five, Buffy realized that maybe, just maybe, she did need the Council after all. With one Slayer AWOL and the other in a coma (and then jail), they have a lot of free time on their hands to focus on identifying potentials and reading in their presumably ginormous libraries. That’s why Giles insists on going to them when the Scoobies hit a wall in their research about Glory. The Council is willing to share their knowledge about BtVS’ most fabulous Big Bad, but under a condition: that Buffy allows them to subject her to a series of Slayer tests and meddle in all aspects of her life. At first, she agrees because the world is on the line and all she really knows is that Glory wants the Key and the Key is Dawn—and that she needs more info if she’s going to keep that spoiler a secret for much longer.

Eventually, though, the prodding becomes too much. Buffy sasses off to Quentin Travers and the rest of Council in the way that makes us all want to cheer for her. She’ll “officially” work for them, but Giles has to be reinstated at full, retroactive pay. She wants it to be clear that she calls the shots because she’s the Slayer and they need her, not the other way around. It’s a very dramatic and moving speech, and it works: Travers agrees and tells her the truth about Glory, that she’s not a demon at all, but a god. But … let’s talk about this.

I love Buffy, but there are some flaws in her logic that I think are worth talking about.

  • Flaw 1: The Council needs her more than she needs it. Buffy’s point here seems to be that without a Slayer to watch, the Watchers have nothing. I disagree. It’s well-established that many potentials are identified at a younger age than Buffy (Kendra had been training since she was very young, it seemed). There’s a massive well of knowledge about the supernatural, occult, and otherwise world-endingly bad for the Watchers to study. If anything, not having an active Slayer for a few years (or months, as they probably suspected when Buffy “quit”—because, let’s brutally real here, Slayers have short shelf lives) probably frees up some much-needed time to focus on other projects, assuming the world didn’t end in the meantime.
  • Flaw 2: Buffy doesn’t need the Council at all. Even with Giles (and his massive library) by her side, Buffy isn’t able to learn anything valuable about Glory. The Council is an old, giant organization, and with that comes an old, giant wealth of resources and knowledge.
  • Flaw 3: Giles should be paid retroactively from the time he left the Council in season three. Just kidding. This is totally reasonable. In fact, she should have thrown in a bonus, or other perks, like unlimited rides on the Council jet or a lifetime membership to the library, even after he leaves the job. Giles is the best (I’m sorry for calling you creepy before—we’re cool, right?), and he deserves all the things.

I know the Watchers’ Council is an antagonistic force in the Buffyverse, but they always fascinate me. Even in “Helpless,” when they’re clearly being wrong and terrible, I just want to know more about what makes them tick. It makes me wistful for the Ripper spinoff that never was.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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